Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Family Therapy


Ronald J. Chenail

Committee Member

Anne H. Rambo

Committee Member

Tommie V. Boyd


This evocative autoethnographic study is a very personalized account of my life as a Haitian American and a bilingual family therapist working with Haitian refugee earthquake survivors. The study focused on the lived experiences and challenges encountered as a family therapist trained in systemic techniques, linguistic terminology, and the Westernized psychotherapy approach to engaging Creole-speaking clients in therapy. Other challenges that existed were uncovered during the integration of the use of Haitian Creole language and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) tenets as the preferred model. It explored this therapist’s narrative in the process of providing psychotherapy to these clients, emerged a relinking to childhood traumatic experiences, explored these experiences, and in the process found healing as well as achieved personal and professional growth. “The findings in an autoethnography are typically the stories themselves along with cultural themes and coding elements” (McIntyre, 2016, p. xiii). Their stories spanned a reconnection to the Haitian culture as a researcher familiar with the culture (an insider) as well as one assimilated into the American culture and dynamic (an outsider). My reflection on the cultural expressions in the therapeutic relationship was instrumental in my development and expanded my therapeutic lens as a bilingual family therapist in the practice of psychotherapy (Skulic, 2007). The research findings are an apparent example in an evocative autoethnographic narrative account when the reader’s emotions are evoked (McIntyre, 2016). It is a conduit to foster dialogue among psychotherapists working with clients from their culture and other cultures.